The holiday season is stressful, but holiday stress on its own usually isn't something to worry about. Psychiatrists say there is a difference between the holiday blues, and true mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.
"If it's to the point where it's you're worried about everything and anything all the time, it's causing you symptoms that are interfering with your daily life. And I think that's really a good way to think about mental illness," Dr. Joseph Sochet, Outpatient Chief Resident, HealthONE Psychiatry Residency at HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Center told Newsy. "You know, stress-normal. Fear-normal, in certain circumstances. But if it's in excess of what you would expect under the circumstances and it's interfering with your daily function, I think it's probably worth to talk to someone about it on the anxiety side of things."
Dr. Sochet says while cases of depression and anxiety can spike around the holidays, they tend to have more consistent and longer-lasting symptoms than a passing holiday funk.
"For something like depression. You know, being sad that grandma is no longer with us, being sad that, you know, a family member who you used to be close is now distant, is probably a pretty normal emotion. Feeling like I'm so sad, I'm worthless, I'm no good, my family hates me. I should go kill myself. Now, we're kind of worrying about the depressive side of things and it might be worth talking to somebody."
If someone is thinking about suicide, calling a crisis hotline or visiting a nearby ER could be the best thing to do.
Harvard brain scientists have some advice for dealing with holiday stress. The more mentally prepared you are to handle things like managing time, being attentive, switching focus, planning, and remembering details, the better your brain can respond to that acute intense stress. Also important – having a de-stress strategy for when the season ends.
If you need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.